Cole takes us on a journey of real-life accounts creating a fitting conclusion to the words Born Sinner. While each story includes the usual suspects (whips and women), Jermaine finds that depth in his writing most strive for, but only the few find.
Right off the bat, “LAnd of the Snakes” lands at the top for me based (but not solely) on the fact it samples Outkasts’ “Da Art of Storytelling Pt. 1,” the joint that originally got me hooked on the ATL duo. Cole takes his telling of stories as a serious business, so the sample is the perfect puzzle piece while he stresses the mandate of watching your back, no matter where you come from.
This the shit I used to roll down Lewis Street with
Let’s pop down the tracklist to “Rich Niggaz,” the honest, open-faced ballad that hits close to home for most of us on multiple levels, and specifically within the stereotypical Hip Hop environment. Ripping back the first layer of this onion presents the tale as old as time; chasing the Benjamins. Peeling the second layer gives us the daddy complex and how the blame rests on their shoulders for having empty pockets. One layer deeper and we’ve made it to the conscience, the dark place, the soul – “now I’m Kobain with a shotgun aimed at my brain ’cause I can’t maintain no more / Tad bit extreme I know / Money can’t save your soul.”
On a slightly lighter note, “Forbidden Fruit” is a joint for the record books; Cole, Kendrick and a Tribe sample. While the lifelong tale about the comings and goings of materialistic possessions is in full flight, we’re hit with an abundance of quick quips – “forbidden fruit watch for the Adam’s apple, slick with words don’t hate a son.” Rolling with that theme, we come to “Chaining Day,” which seems to be a right of passage in the Hip Hop world; the Jesus piece, which often comes with an unrequited price tag.
my guilt heavy as this piece I wear
When you cut the fiction and filler, not only do the listeners ears perk, but the mind seems to follow suit.
As far as cost and margin goes, this record is highly favourable. Besides a handful of samples, a helping hand or two in the booth, and a KDot feature, Jermaine plays the lead and support worthy of a double-headed Oscar. The production is one of the key ingredients to a succulent concept album. When you have the ability to take the reins in the studio, you control the puzzle. With each story, comes a feeling, an emotion – you were the one living it out, you know what it should sound like. Cole intricately crafts beats that live vicariously through the emotion.
J. Cole strongly believes in the storytelling (even when Nas doesn’t), his poetry has the ability to carry an album, cover to cover. Born Sinner deals with the good, the bad, the ugly and the evil within a man, and in this particular case, his name is Jermaine.
Note: First Week Sales – 297,000